Tessa Wardley. Quarto Publishing, 2021. 144 pages.
Reviewed by Siobhan Mullally
The more I learn about environmental issues, the more I realize that everything we do as individuals has an impact on the Earth. The impacts are not always negative – we have a great capacity to make positive impacts, too – but either way, it always boils down to the choices we make on a daily basis. We have the choice to make a difference in the ways we live our lives, whether it’s how we clean our homes, what we choose to eat, how we travel, or where we shop.
For those of us who want to make better choices for the planet, Tessa Wardley’s The Eco Hero Handbook is a helpful pocket-guide full of answers to common eco “how-tos”. This book is a clear exploration of one individual trying to find ways to live lighter on the earth to share with others. Wardley offers fact-based insights into several environmental topics to help inform the reader’s decision-making, even if just by sharing one perspective that contributes to a better understanding of an issue as a whole.
Since it is written for all people, The Eco Hero Handbook is written and organized in a simple and accessible way. Each page in the book contains a question, an issue, and a solution. For example, one page states, “How can I reduce the impact of buying things online?”, which is followed by an explanation of why buying products online has a large carbon footprint, as well as a page of alternatives to buying online and solutions to making more eco-conscious online purchases.
The solutions are divided into 6 categories – indoors, outdoors, transport, on holiday, at work, and food and shopping – so, the structure of the book and the chapters make it simple to read in any order. If you have a question in mind, like “What kind of cleaning products should I be using to benefit the planet?”, you can go straight to the ‘indoors’ category to quickly find an answer.
Although the solutions are practical and doable, they are not one-size-fits-all. Wardley writes several ideas, actions, and alternatives for each solution to accommodate the differences in each of our capacities to change our habits. She also often writes encouraging statements like, “Don’t try to change everything at once,” reminding the reader that making change is a process. It is not pushy or guilt-tripping, and doesn’t focus on what you MUST do; it focuses on what you CAN do by taking small steps.
Finally, Wardley leaves the reader with the empowering message to just “keep going”. Helplessness and eco-anxiety are not going to drive the positive environmental shift we need to see – what will drive it are small actions, encouragement, informed decision-making, and doing our best to do what we can, where we can.
“It is tempting to feel insignificant in our actions, that we cannot influence the direction in which the world is heading, but our collective power is great.” –Tessa Wardley, The Eco Hero Handbook (2021)
Siobhan Mullally is studying Environment, Resources and Sustainability (ERS) at the University of Waterloo while also minoring in English Language and Literature. As a writer and environmentalist, she is passionate about exploring environmental communications to inspire climate action. She is also a budding ecologist, researching climate change impacts on Arctic ecosystems in Labrador, Canada. In her free time, she enjoys spending time in nature and getting lost in her favourite novels.